Boston Red Sox: 30 Greatest Players in Team History

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26: Jonathan Papelbon, RP (2005-2011)

Far and away the greatest closer in Red Sox history, Jonathan Papelbon’s 219 saves with the team is the most of all-time. The closest to him on the list is Bob Stanley with 132.

Papelbon burst onto the scene late in 2005, when he was brought up, and quickly became an important piece of the Red Sox bullpen. Papelbon was primarily a starter in the minor leagues, but quickly found his niche in the bullpen with improved velocity to go along with an already impressive repertoire of breaking pitches.

The Red Sox had plans of moving Papelbon back to the rotation entering the 2006 season, but incumbent closer Keith Foulke continued to struggle with injuries, forcing Boston to leave Papelbon in the bullpen and making him the closer. Well, that turned out to be the correct decision, as Papelbon was simply dominant.

In his first full season in the majors, Papelbon was the Red Sox closer, and he was nearly unhittable. Papelbon was lights out, finishing with 35 saves and a 0.92 ERA in his rookie season. He came in second to Justin Verlander in the Rookie of the Year voting that season.

Papelbon’s success continued in 2007, as he finished with 37 saves and a 1.85 ERA, but his most influential work came in the post season. Papelbon proved himself to be an extremely valuable weapon for the Red Sox, as he pitched nearly perfect through the post season. In seven appearances (10.2 innings), Papelbon did not allow any runs, and was a huge reason why the Red Sox took home the World Series title that season.

He had four more successful seasons with the Red Sox (although the last two weren’t quite as dominant), before leaving the team for the Philadelphia Phillies in free agency before the 2012 season. Papelbon has continued his great career, and is one of the best closers of this era. His work in Boston early in his career was essential for their success.

Next: Number 25